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Last updated: October 26, 2020 • Personal Finance

Red Flags to Look Out for While Renting an Apartment

Hunting for a rental can be extremely daunting, as there are so many things you have to keep in mind. But, no matter how difficult it can get, always be on guard to avoid scammers, lest you end up in a lousy place. 

In this article, you’ll find seven things to watch out for while searching for a new rental property.

You Can View the Place Only at Certain Times

secret young business man

Sure, sometimes, the real estate agent or the landlord might just be having a busy day. They can offer to show you the place, let’s say, in the early morning or later in the afternoon. However, if you notice that the showings are happening around the same time everyday, this should be a red flag to look out for.

For example, if they make it impossible to arrange the viewing some time in the evening, it could be a sign that the apartment is located in a shady area, one which might be unsafe at night. Or, maybe there’s a nightclub or a pub on the ground floor of the building.

No matter what the case is, always be more cautious if you notice you can view a rental only at a certain time of the day. Don’t forget to ask questions about the area and to your potential new neighbors, and always do some additional research on the neighborhood you’re planning to rent your place in!

The Lease Agreement Is Incomplete (Has Blanks)

realtor agent giving the key apartment

This point is one you have to be especially careful with, as it can cause not only some minor nuisance but sometimes significant complications and even legal disputes! 

It goes without saying that you have to read carefully any contract you are going to sign. Similarly, you should never agree to sign the lease if there are any blanks that the landlord promises to fill in later. 

Some people can blithely overlook this fact and take it as good faith that the landlord is in a hurry and will fill in some gaps later. But any of the landlord’s promises that are not confirmed in writing can be disregarded later on. If they promise you a discount or that you can split a deposit into two payments, you should make sure it will be included in the contract as well.

Enforced Payments in Cash

businessman giving money

This is yet another significant red flag, and you should be extremely cautious in dealing with people who would request all payments to be in cash. Sure, the landlord can ask for a deposit or a reimbursement for the tenant screening procedure, which is a common practice. However, if you notice that the landlord asks for the cash deposit immediately to secure that no one else will take the condo and assures you that there is no other way to pay for it, the alarm bells in your head should be sounding off.

There are countless schemes which scammers pull off asking for cash in advance, and it doesn’t happen only for rentals.  Scammers developed meticulous strategies to rob people of enormous amounts of money, especially when homebuyers decide to buy a home with cash rather than a mortgage. Usually, it is impossible to identify them and get your money back. Instead, try to always pay by credit card or check, and be extra alert for any cash transactions you might be asked for.

The Price Is Incredibly Low

three wooden house

After searching for a rental for some time, it may feel like a stroke of luck when you finally find the perfect place, one which is also way less expensive than the average rental price on the market. Honestly speaking, there are some situations when you can actually find a great property cheaper than you would expect.

Usually, however, you can expect pitfalls from this kind of bargain. Firstly, it can be a simple bait and switch. Many brokers and agents market their rentals by putting an ad out for an attractive house or condo simply to get your attention. And then, when you call, they will happily provide you with plenty of other options (which will probably be way more expensive and in worse condition).

Another reason for a landlord to put a place on the market with a significant price cut could be some major flaws. For example, you could have extremely loud or troublesome neighbors, or the nearby metro line could be planning a renovation that causes it to be closed the following year. If you are lucky, the landlord might mention this during the showing. But usually, you will discover it for yourself only after you sign the lease.

Weird Smells and Stains

young bearded man back view

Even though it might be so easy to overlook at your first rental viewing, it can also tell so much about the place you’re planning to rent! For example, if you recognize the distinct smell of mold or mildew, inquire immediately about humidity or ventilation problems. As you know, both of these issues not only make your living unpleasant; they can also lead to health problems. 

Similarly, you should watch out for other ominous clues, such as strange spots on the ceiling or walls, the strong smell of cigarettes, or the excessive smell of an air freshener which the landlord might use to cover something up.

The Landlord is Hard to Get In Touch With

Logically, the showing is the time when the landlord should be the most available. It is in their best interest to get in touch with potential tenants as fast as possible so they could quickly rent the place out. If the landlord is not responding to your calls and emails when you are trying to see their house, think twice before renting it. Turns out, it is one of the most common mistakes the landlord can make.

Such behavior will turn out to be extremely annoying and unpleasant later. For example, if you have any issues with the rental in the future, you might find out that it is almost impossible to reach out to the landlord. Also, this might lead to an enormous amount of time spent waiting for repairs. 

Paying a Deposit Before Seeing the Rental

hand holds cash money

In our global times of traveling and relocating to faraway countries and cities, you might not have the opportunity to see the place in person before arrival. In this case, try your hardest to make sure someone can have a look at it, perhaps a friend or a family member. If none of this is possible, make sure that the agency or the landlord is absolutely trustworthy. When so many things are out of your control already, don’t add to it by risking a deal with scammers or deceitful agents. 

Similarly, I can’t stress enough how cautious you should be paying anything (especially in cash!) in advance. Check out the place you will call your future home and sign a lease, or at least some contract you can use for further proof before paying any money. 

As you can see, there are plenty of things you should be aware of when going on a quest trying to find your perfect future home. In some situations, what you thought was a red flag might turn out to be a whim of your landlord, and you will end up renting an excellent place.  However, if you know what to be especially wary about, you will save yourself untold trouble and your hard-earned money. All and all, when looking for a rental property it should be fun. This is where your home will be. We highly recommend our users to find a real estate agent whenever they are in the market for a rental. These professionals know all the pitfalls of the real estate market and can help you save lots of time and energy on your quest of finding a perfect home! Also, when renting, their services are free to the renter. So it’s a win-win!

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